A Twit Steps Out

Ever since I read then-minister Ng Eng Hen’s speech at the 1st ICTLT conference in 2008, I wanted to go for an ICTLT conference. And this year, 4 years after the speech that set the tone for how I viewed ICT in education, I finally got the chance. The credit largely goes to our country’s defence policies, for it was only thanks to the fact that my colleague had to don army fatigues and serve the nation that I got to take his place at the conference. (Hooray for reservist! :))

All these years, I had imagined that ICTLT would be a conference where people walked around with their fancy notebooks, Kindles, iPads and other mobile devices and tweeted and skyped and Facebook-ed constantly. It would be the ICT-in-education version of ComicCon, where cool people passionate about the same cool cause would be energised by cool emerging trends, listen to cool experts and each other and exchange cool plans and stories, using cool jargon and discussing cool concepts that only those clued in to the latest, coolest, cutting-edge trends would have access to.

In short, it would be one really cool conference to be part of.

The reality wasn’t far from that, I’m happy to say.

The coolest thing (are you sick of that word yet?) I probably took away from the two days though, wasn’t from a session I attended or a speaker I heard.

From ICTLT 2012, I learnt how to become a twit.

Or a tweep, apparently the term is.

And from that, I mean I learnt how to use twitter. Socially, like how it was meant to be used.

Prior to ICTLT 2012, I had never tweeted in a community. I had no friends on twitter, so my tweets were always lonely sentences that hung stoically without recognition in twittersphere. I saw them as virtual post-its that I stuck onto the cloud as I went about my life. Whines. Eavesdropped sentences. The beginnings of an idea. Notes to self. Lists. Twitter to me was like a truncated private blog on the go.

Tweeting as @Genevieve_ELIS and using the hashtag #ICT2012 during ICTLT 2012 however, opened a completely new world to me. As more and more people at the same conference tweeted using #ICTLT2012, the twitter stream became so fun to follow and to add to that I was constantly on my iPad and smartphone during sessions. I was attending one session, but I could access the main learning points from other sessions that other tweeps were in. Through sheer observation and trial and error (which incidently, is the best way to pick up new ICT tools quickly), I learnt how people retweeted and hash-tagged, used the ‘@’, followed each other and linked the urls of websites, PowerPoint slides, and prezis to their tweets.

New words entered my vocabulary. Tweet-ups. Tweet cafes. I aped politeness strategies in the new communication space. I pondered on the linguistic and punctuation choices of other tweeps. From an organisation’s point of view, I took mental notes of new ways of using twitter in a conference setting. To tell conference participants about sessions. To get people back in after lunch. To explain. To thank people. To get questions for a panel discussion. To give feedback. To share links to slides and other resources. To arrange for meet ups.

It was all rather fascinating, really, learning the protocols of a virtual environment in which participants were so eager to share and to learn in. The collegiality and supportive environment of #ICTLT2012 was something an overseas delegate marvelled at. At ICTLT 2012, twittering in a professional learning community became my ‘hidden curriculum’. I hope that it will prove to be a watershed event for Singapore educators on twitter, as the learning and sharing continues.

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